Ol’ Mary

By Jason D. Hill

Ol’ Mary is tired.
Her face is shrinking.
Her eyes are like those of a blind serpent that crawls, pauses, waits for, eats
…..the light
And then: spits out the sin.
When she was young a fisherman said he’d seen eyes just like hers
Buried in a purple clam.
He lost his married finger prying the clam. And so he became her first sin.

Ol’ Mary is tired.
Every night she walks alone:
walks beside her once prized cassava paths, in running sweats and dirty
…..tennis shoes;
walks right through the baby callaloo greens of her neighbor, Mr John,
in satin frocks and eight-inch high heels;
walks among the mango groves of farmers
mortgaged to their graves, barefooted.

Last night, after a lifetime of searching for Jesus
She spotted him: At last!
Perched like a haughty dandy on a big, ripe Julie mango
That banged her in the head when she jumped to pluck it.
Ol’ Mary heard Jesus say in a familiar voice
[Cigarette in left hand; dreadlocks impeccably coifed behind two pointy ears]:
Woman: Stand back.

Bearing no worthy name to intercede on her behalf,
Ol’ Mary decided to lie down upon the warm earth,
The temerity of Jesus’ Great Refusal drowning out the maddening voices —
Even the ones of her children informing her, in unison,
On Mother’s Day:
We have changed our names: Woman, call no more!
We have changed our names: Woman, call no more!

And now, looking up at the sky,
Flat on her back,
Ol’ Mary praised the Lord
And thanked Him for her life
Even though —
In spite of her dumb, incredulous stare —
He told her he had changed his name.


The Caribbean Review of Books, November 2008

Jason D. Hill is an associate professor of philosophy at De Paul University, Chicago, and author of Becoming a Cosmopolitan: What It means to Be a Human Being in the New Millennium (2000). He was born and raised in Jamaica.